How to Pick the Right Paralegal Course Near Kodiak Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Kodiak AK and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Kodiak residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account too. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Kodiak AK attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Kodiak AK is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies in the field are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Kodiak AK students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Kodiak AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Kodiak AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Kodiak AK law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Kodiak AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Kodiak AK area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help offset part of the expense, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Kodiak AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Kodiak AK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Kodiak Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Kodiak residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Kodiak Alaska.